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    Business Blogs and TagsShould you be looking at upgrading? Well, WordPress is maintaining quite a rhythm of late in terms of new releases – these can often be time consuming if you are trying to maintain several blogs with up to date software as I am for the people I work with. However, I digress as ever! :(

    WordPress 2.3 Overview

    This version does seem, however, to be well worth the time and effort. From a purely business perspective, there are a number of elements in this latest version which are of particular interest to me, primarily the canonical URLs and tagging elements which I’ll explain in more detail below. But let’s a have a quick recap of all the new things going on first.

    The main additions in WordPress 2.3 are:

    • Tagging: native tagging as they call it which includes tagging in the main software rather than relying on 3rd party plugins (see below)

    • WordPress and plugin updates: lets you know when there are updates available either of the main WordPress software or of the plugins that you have installed

    • Canonical URLs: lots of good stuff here but hugely uninteresting reading. It is, however very useful in terms of certain aspects of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which I’ll try to explain later

    • Pending Review: allows you to run a blog with multiple authors much more efficiently as you are notified when new posts need reviewing

    • Advanced formatting when writing blogs: some additional features which had previously been hidden
    (The full list can be found on the WordPress Blog)

    Tagging

    Ok, so why am I getting even vaguely excited about tagging? Well, tagging is a way of bringing out the keywords in the post that you have written – effectively it allows you to add tags or ‘labels’ to your post so that you can classify the principal content areas yourself without relying solely on Search Engines to decide what you’re on about and therefore make an “educated” guess on your behalf.

    It’s true that the categories function in WordPress offers a way to do this but this, for me anyway, is more structural than anything else. I use categories to help readers identify start points for their research. Tagging will add an additional dimension to that and will give extra flexibility to it which is great – I believe that they are certainly complementary.

    Personally, I already use a plugin called <a href="http://dev.wp-plugins.org/wiki/BunnysTechnoratiTags" target="_blank"Bunny Tags</a> to do some of this (another excellent tag plugin is <a href="http://www.neato.co.nz/ultimate-tag-warrior/" target="_blank">Ultimate Tag Warrior</a>) but the chance to deliver tagging in the main software will help to develop this area further. I would expect to use this element much more extensively in the future and that tagging will be more 'visible' in Better Business Blogging.

    For more information, a nice explanation of categories and tags can be found at <a href="http://dougal.gunters.org/blog/2007/09/22/tags-and-categories-in-wordpress" target="_blank">Geek Ramblings</a> (thanks to <a href="http://www.nevillehobson.com" target="_blank">Neville Hobson</a> for the link).

    <h5>Canonical URLs </h5>
    Oh dear - I somewhat regret mentioning these earlier but let me try to explain. While it's not ALL to do with the concept of 'duplicate content', that is at its core. Bear with me for two minutes on this and then you can sleep ... or watch the latest instalment of <a href="http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/" target="_blank">Heroes</a>.

    Google likes unique content because then it can direct its searchers to THE best page for what they are looking for. However, when two (or more pages) show the same content Google suffers and has to decide what to do with the content and how to rank it. The trouble is that sometimes we create "duplicate pages" without actually knowing it. For example, www.betterbusinessblogging.com/ with and without a '/' or with and without the 'www', all count as different pages ... and hence potentially fall into the 'duplicate content' game. What we want to do is really have all of them point at the same place and be counted only once. The changes here should help to address exactly this problem.

    The WordPress change should essentially take away all these other "pages" - the fact that people generally didn't know they existed in the first place, I guess means that this change will mainly be appreciated by SEO interested parties. However, it is, in fact, important.

    <h5>Summary</h5>
    Well, as any regular reader will already know, I am a great fan and advocate of WordPress and the additions that they have made here in their latest release do nothing but strengthen my belief that WordPress remains the best blogging software for companies wanting to future proof their blogging investment.

    My advice: well, ever the cautious one, check the feedback as it comes in and when it is confirmed that it's stable and you have checked your plugins work, then upgrade as it looks worth it.

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    When creating a successful corporate blog, there are a number of elements which come together to make it what it is. The content itself is key to this, but the words just form the final part of the blog and one which is supported by a number of other layers or building blocks. Together, they help to determine the blog’s focus and its effectiveness.

    The more that I work with companies (large and small) on their business blogs, the more I see how these different layers must work together to give the right results. This is the case whatever the size of the organisation, though the timescales can vary enormously. A large corporate blog may take several months to come to fruition, not because there are additional elements but due to the number of “interested parties” involved. With a small business blog, the decisions are often made instantly and so the timeframe is shorter; however, the business challenges are similar.

    In both business and corporate blogs, the structure and elements involved are made up as shown below.

    Anatomy of a Blog: Layers and Building Blocks

    1. Philosophy Layer
    The foundations of any business blog should include the basic principles of blogging, which hold true for organisations just as they do for individuals writing their own personal blogs. These would include openness, two-way communication, passion, writing with an authentic voice, authority and personality.

    An organisation intending to establish a blog should consider these carefully as well as the business ideals they embrace. If the company culture is one which does not have the flexibility and openness to accept and apply them, then it is unlikely that it will be able to use the blog to its full potential and it may be better served using other online marketing media.

    2. Technical Layer
    The selection of the blogging software to be used forms an important part of the technical layer together with how the blog is integrated with the company website (or set up separately), the internal IT requirements of the company and the hosting structure required.

    The choice of blogging platform can compromise a corporate blogs potential from the outset if it cannot support the elements needed to achieve the blogs goals. To help future proof the investment in time and money, the platform should therefore not only cover the initial requirements but also have the scope to develop over time as the business needs of company and blog develop.

    This might also take into consideration the technical aspects of Search Engine optimization, for example, which should ensure that the blog has the flexibility to allow page level customisation of elements such as title tags, blog tags and metatags.

    3. Business Layer
    Some of the most important decisions during the preparation phase relate to the overall business requirements of the blog and how it will be used by the company. The basis for these decisions will come from the answers to the 3 key questions which need to be answered right at the start of the process, namely what the aims and goals of the blog are, who its intended audience is and what it is designed to achieve.

    The answers to these questions will effectively decide the format and focus of the blog which in turn will dictate who is the best person/people to write it, how often to add posts, how it will be marketed and what impact it will make on various departments throughout the company. All of these elements form part of the business layer.

    Every successful business blog will have a particular business focus which will influence the way that it looks, its focus and the content that it contains. This focus can take many different forms given that the blog could be an internal blog (sometimes called a “dark blog”) serving a company, project or team or an external one used for branding, customer service, product development or any number of customer facing uses. [Some examples of business blog uses.]

    4. Blog Interface & Graphic Layer
    The graphics and branding elements are important parts of this, but they do not make up the whole story. In addition, the layout of the blog needs to be consistent with the business requirements of the blog so that best use is made of the space available to promote the elements which will support its business goals.

    If your business requirements dictate that you are pushing to get subscribers then your RSS and email subscription areas will be very prominent. If there are special offers or specific service areas which are key to achieving the blog’s goals then these should be made highly visible within the layout and design. Some of the other elements relating to the interface and graphic layer can be found in the Business Blog Design Series.

    5. Content Layer
    Last but certainly not least, the content itself. This is the most important single layer because it is the one that the blogs readers are most aware of and it is the content which will attract them back and turn them from “passers by” into avid readers. However, the content only comes into its own because of the interaction and support of the other layers.

    In truth, many companies and businesses tend to concentrate solely on this layer. However, the blog’s content needs to build on what was outlined in the business layer to achieve the right business focus for the company. This content will then be promoted, highlighted and pushed by the elements in the other layers.

    One important, yet often overlooked, part of content element is the specific use of the individual post titles and specific Search Engine oriented elements such as the titles tags, meta tags and general blog tags, all of which should be provided for in the technical layer.

    Summary
    A blog needs all of the different components to be working together to be really successful and, for a corporate blog, doubly so. A blog using a standard template rather than the organisation’s branding will be less effective, as will one built on a platform which makes leaving comments difficult or one that reads like a sales brochure. Equally, a business blog where all the other aspects are in place but which is aimed at the wrong audience will not achieve the success that it perhaps warrants.

    However, with each of these different layers working together, then the results can be excellent. The day-to-day focus can then be firmly on maintaining the quality and focus of the content and promoting it in the right areas to ensure that it can (and will) achieve the business goals it was designed for.

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    WordPress has been busy again with an additional upgrade to its main open source blogging platform and also the announcement of the formal release of two additional products over the past 10 days.

    WordPress MU (multi-user) and bbPress have both had their proper releases with WordPress MU 1.0 and bbPress 0.72. WordPress MU is in fact a version which allows you to run and manage multiple blogs off a single system, hence users in that sense – you can of course have many users in the “authors” sense on a normal WordPress installation. This is the software that powers the hosted version of WordPress at WordPress.com and is likely to see its initial markets coming from the worlds of journalism and education where multiple individual blogs held under one roof are common.

    bbPress is forum software which has focused on being “lean and mean” and has all the features and speed that you would expect, coming as it does from the writers of WordPress. It can be run independently but will also be a great addition to those looking to include a Forum within their own Blogs. If you want to see it in action then the WordPress support forums uses it so that would be a good place to start.

    Last, but by no means least, the new version of WordPress itself – WordPress 2.0.5 codename Ronan – is mainly a bug fix of some security elements and custom fields rather than a major upgrade although 2.1 is expected to be coming out sooner rather than later with some additional functionality. What more can they add?

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